There’s no last word in politics, just the next word. Two weeks ago, the American people spoke the next word.
While we Democrats worked our hearts out, we fell short of winning the White House. Yet the results of this election show that our voices are needed now, more than ever.
We must never forget that, for the sixth time in the last seven presidential elections, our nominee won the popular vote. As of this writing, our candidate is ahead in the vote count by nearly 2 million votes. We gained new seats in the US House and Senate, though not enough to win a majority in either chamber of Congress.
We lost ground in the state houses, but our progressive agenda scored wins all the same. For instance, we can take some pride that at least 2 million Americans who live from paycheck to paycheck will get much-needed and long overdue pay raises because working people won referenda to increase the minimum wage in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington State.
But I was raised to tell it straight. This isn’t the result we were hoping for. Not even close.
The question now is: where do we go from here?
For me, this was the second time in five years that I have accepted a temporary assignment as Democratic National Committee Chair and it has been an honor to serve for the Obama Administration. As anyone who has ever worked as a substitute teacher, an office temp or an agency nurse can tell you, part-time work can be a full-time challenge.
Although the election is behind us, my charge isn’t over yet. As I serve out the remainder of my term, we will:
- Fight to win our runoff races;
- Complete the recounts in contested races;
- Continue to invest in our cyber-security, so that an autocrat in the Kremlin will never be able to hack into our democracy;
- Amplify our Party’s platform, the most progressive in American history;
- Close down our field offices and assist our staff and volunteers who are now without jobs;
- And, critically, elect a new Chair of the Democratic National Committee to carry our fight forward.
Our next Chair has a critical role to play in galvanizing Democrats, in spreading our progressive message of opportunity and respect for all Americans, and in fighting for the shared values that we all hold dear. I will proudly support them in that work, whoever they may be.
My only word of counsel has to do with my long-time assignment at the DNC — and my lasting, lifetime passion — serving as Vice Chair for Civic Engagement and Voter Participation. As I prepare to step away from that role, and especially after this election, I’m reminded yet again why voting is so important.
This was the first election in 50 years without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act, and we had to fight this campaign in 14 states that had brand new voting restrictions put in place for this presidential election.
In many swing states, voter suppression succeeded in its ultimate, if unstated goal: diluting democracy through disfranchisement.
- In Wisconsin, where the presidential vote margin was only 27,000, as many as 300,000 voters didn’t have the photo ID that was now required.
- In North Carolina, there were 158 fewer early voting locations in 40 counties with large African American populations. It was no accident that black voter participation in early voting declined by 16 percent.
- And Ohio eliminated the week when voter registration used to overlap with early voting.
Ensuring voting rights is only one of the many great challenges facing our party, but it’s an especially illustrative one. When the going gets most difficult, it sometimes seems that obstacles are placed in our way to remind us that all our fights — even those that may seem small — are well worth waging, and all our work — even the tasks that may seem routine — are well worth doing.
Toward that great goal, the Democratic Party will continue to assess the 2016 election and will prepare for the work ahead.
To that end, the Unity Commission — now chaired by the veteran strategist Jen O’Malley Dillon and the great labor leader Larry Cohen –will begin its work in making our nominating process more reflective of rank-and-file Democrats than ever before.
Additionally, a new advisory group will look back at why we were not able to win this presidential election in the Electoral College, and how we can reconnect with hardworking Americans from every segment of society and every community in this country.
Finally, the Cybersecurity Taskforce will continue to assist the Party and advise on how to protect our technology infrastructure and will make recommendations at the upcoming meetings.
For me, as for so many, this work is personal.
I have had the opportunity to work at the highest levels of American politics because — together with my family, my community, and my church — the Democratic Party raised me, trained me, and helped me work my way to a life beyond my bravest dreams.
I’m here because, in the three years after my 5th birthday, a Democratic President and Congress enacted civil rights, and voting rights, and declared war on poverty.
When I say the Democrats must fight for working people, I remember my father — a Korean War veteran who worked construction until a crane hit his back and he had to take a job as a janitor; my mother — who trained as a teacher but worked most of her life as a domestic; and the people I grew up with — who sacrificed every day to give their kids a better tomorrow.
When I say that politics can and must make a difference in people’s lives, I remember that I worked in my first campaign when I was nine, for a candidate who promised a playground for the kids in my community — and we made sure he kept that promise.
Together we can keep the promises that the Democratic Party must make — jobs and justice for every man and woman, and a head start and a healthy start for every boy and girl.
We have only begun to fight for these American Dreams, and, from the bottom of my heart, I thank all those who joined that fight this year and will keep the faith in the years ahead.